Netflix has grown to become one of the biggest entertainment companies in the world, but with great influence comes extreme scrutiny. While subscribers wait breathlessly for the next season of “Stranger Things,” the internet colossus stepped into a world of racial controversy with the announcement of a new show debuting in April.
Based on the movie of the same name, “Dear White People” will tell the story of a bi-racial college student who must overcome mockery and oppression as she attends a fictional Ivy League university. In the trailer for the show, the protagonist lectures the predominately-white student body on what they can and cannot wear to a Halloween party.
“Dear white people,” she says. “Here’s a list of acceptable Halloween costumes: pirate, slutty nurse, any of our first 43 presidents. Top of the list of unacceptable costumes: me.”
The scene dissolves into images of white students wearing blackface makeup and the violent backlash that ensues.
The show’s creators insist that it’s lighthearted and inclusive, but many Netflix subscribers resent seeing the network dive headlong into divisive political waters. Not long after the trailer debuted on YouTube, it had amassed thousands of “dislikes” and a wave of pushback from conservative media.
The UK’s Daily Mail chronicled some of the social media comments:
One wrote: ‘Not reverse racism, it’s just plain racism. Bye Netflix!’ while another added: ‘Amazon Prime is the new Netflix, and its better. Goodbye Netflix, enjoy your racism.’
A third chimed in: ‘I say this as a black person…I find it racist as hell. People find it funny when a black person is racist to a white person, but when the roles are reversed, man you are a horrible!
‘Sh*t like this is EXACTLY the reason why there is so much division in this country.’
While the show’s creators try to cool the flames, comments like the one made by writer Jack Moore in November aren’t helping their cause. Moore, displaying a chart that showed how various racial demographics voted in the 2016 election, posted a Twitter message that simply read: “F**K white people.”
And if this is the kind of sentiment that Netflix wants to provide a platform for, they may find that even the most dominant media companies aren’t immune to crippling backlash.